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Working Out Math's Achievement in the U.S

Janet E. Mertz and an oncology professor at the University of Wisconsin and Jonathan M. Kane,a professor of mathematics and computer science at the same University, lead a study that will be on the Notices of the American Mathematical Society. and which particularly is among the first to examine data from the most difficult math competitions for young people, including the USA and International Mathematical Olympiads for high school students, and the Putnam Mathematical Competition for college undergraduates. For winners of these competitions, the Michael Phelpses and Kobe Bryants of math, getting an 800 on the math SAT is routine.

The United States is failing to develop the math skills of both girls and boys, especially among those who could excel at the highest levels, and girls who do succeed in the field are almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries where mathematics is more highly valued, the New York Times stated.

People contributing to the Slashdot entry among other things, had pointed out: The problem is related to probability in a way Success at sports is highly rewarded but difficult to achieve (as defined by a standard of playing in a professional league at a national level). In academics, success (attainment of a graduate degree) is easier (number of people able to reach the goal) to achieve though still a difficult task.

What would help is some good publicity for all of the cool science, math, and engineering being done. MythBusters, despite what the purists would say, has done a lot to encourage a love of science -- or at least something resembling the scientific process. Junkyard Wars, and even the various robot-battle shows help get kids (and us older kids) interested in science and technology.

Some of you might want to pay attention to the Darius' story which is based on the Immersive Repetition Learning Model (IRLM) headed by Jerry Reed. He also refers to the problems the study has found.

College algebra is the most failed class in US colleges nationally, according to Mr. Reed. Algebra is at its heart a course in logic and helps to build the skills required for critical thinking. Unfortunately we are not taking care to educate the gifted and more specifically the exceptionally gifted population (We cherish mediocrity over bringing harm to the self-esteem of others). There are more dollars spent in all fifty states on special educational needs for those in the bottom 10% by far than those in the top 10%.

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  1. great article! nice way to point out that we spend less on the bottom 10% than on the top 10% of our population.

  2. Thanks Claudia. As you also know, the same statistic applies to the society. We have to push hard to change it in education